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The secret formula behind tenacity and drive.
BY RACHAEL BROWN
WHY DO NATURALLY GIFTED PEOPLE FREQUENTLY
fail to reach their potential, while others with far less talent go on
to achieve amazing things?
Anyone who keeps an eye on politics can attest to this
observation, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to put your finger on
exactly why it’s true. The answer, if you ask Professor A ngela
Duckworth, doesn’t relate to talent or skill, but a special blend of
characteristics that combine to make grit.
Chutzpah, gumption, tenacity, stamina – whatever you choose
to call it, the concept of grit has been around for some time.
But Duckworth made it a bu zzword in business and education
circles back in April 2013 when she delivered a now-famous TED
Talk on the subject. Over the years, she has steadily brought this
concept to the masses.
Duckworth draws on her personal experiences and
observations to illustrate her points. As the daughter of a scientist
who often criticised her lack of ‘genius’, Duckworth has certainly
proven herself with a long list of accolades. She’s a MacA rthu r
‘Genius’ Fellow, a professor of psychology at the University of
Pen nsylvania, and has advised the White House, the World Bank
and a suite of Fortune 500 CEOs. She has known or knows some
very big names in sectors as diverse as journalism, business,
retail, philosophy, not-for-profits and politics. But she has field
experience as well.
The book deep -dives into her years of teaching and research with
students, soldiers, spelling bee competitors and more to expose
the dangers of thinking of talent and genius as something passive:
you either are, or you aren’t. Rather, it’s a bit of a grey area. Some
things require aptitude, but a lot of what determines success rests
on how willing a person is to fight for something.
As this book’s title alludes to, grit comprises two things:
passion and perseverance. Passion “begins with intrinsically
enjoying what you do,” she says. A nd where passion goes,
perseverance follows: “The highly successful had a kind of
ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these
exemplars were unusually resilient and hard working. Second,
they knew in a very, very deep way what they wanted.”
Trying to measure character traits can be problematic, but
through extensive and ongoing research, she found a stronger
correlation between levels of grit and future success, than IQ and
success. This mix of hard science and anecdotes pre-empts the
inevitable ‘what about the real-world’ types of questions. What’s
more, Duckworth insists that anyone can learn to be gritty. Two
equations she draws in the book offer the best proof:
Talent x Effort = Skill; Skill x Effort = Achievement. In other
words, “effort counts twice,” she says.
If you’re ready to get started and become a grittier, hardier
version of yourself, a good place to start is the Grit Scale, which
measures how gritty you are when compared to others around
you. From there, Duckworth guides readers through a four-step
process to get the engines revving.
Steps one and two are pretty straightforward: First, identify a
burning interest, then practise it ... a lot. The last two steps are
less binary and require more stretch, depending on your passion.
Step three is about making your work meaningful, whether
that means doing things for your friends and family, or trying to
make the world a better place. The examples she draws on for this
step relate mostly to not-for-profit work, so a few examples from
other sectors that aren’t typically associated with ‘giving’ would
have been helpful.
The final key to the pu zzle is hope. Yes, a bit groan worthy,
but Duckworth goes on to explain her ideas of a growth mindset.
What she means by this is that a fixed perception of ability leads
to pessimism. But seeing ability as malleable leads to optimism,
which in turn leads to perseverance.
Grit and resilience are certainly having a moment, and
Duckworth’s research proves that the attention is justified. For
those looking for ways to develop it within themselves or their
team, this book is a thought-provoking, well-researched and
entertaining place to start.
GRIT: THE POWER OF PASSION
by ANGELA DUCKWORTH,
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE
18/08/2016 5:01 pm
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